Anton Chekov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ as Ali Jaker’s ‘KaNthal Bagan’ (Bengali Drama Review)

KanthalBagan-Bengali Play by Ali JakerDec 19, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Anton Chekov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’, directed by Constantin Stanislavski, was first produced by Moscow Art Theatre in 1904. In Calcutta we got ‘Manjari Amer  Manjari’ the Bengali adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. That marvelous work was done by Nandikar in mid sixties, after their much talked about production ‘Natyokarer Sandhane Chhati Charitro` adapted from Luigi Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters In Search Of An Author’. Ajitesh Bandyopadhay was the director and at the same time he played the role of Lalmohan, the adaptation of  the protagonist Yermolai Alexeievitch Lopakhin. We watched the play in the year 1965. This year in Calcutta at the ICCR auditorium we watched ‘KaNthal Bagan’ (Jackfruit Orchard), another Bengali adaptation of The Cherry Orchard by Ali Jaker, the famous director and the father figure of Nagarik, the renowned theatrical group of Bangladesh. Here also besides directing, Ali Jaker played the role of the protagonist Adu, the Bangladashi adaptation of Alexeievitch Lopakhin.

The play concerns an aristocratic family consisting of a widow Johara (Sara Jaker), her  brother Jonab Ali (Mostafij Shahin) and her daughter Tamanna (Tahanina Islam) who return to the family’s zamindari consisting of a large palace and a vast jackfruit orchard which Adu used to call jackfruit forest. They come just before the whole asset is being auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate the family essentially does nothing and the play ends with the estate being sold to one of their servants Adu (Ali Jaker). He wins the auction against 42 lacs rupees while Jonab Ali, who is solely responsible for the property being mortgaged and auctioned, appeared in the auction with only 2 lacs in his purse. Anyway Adu becoming the owner of this vast property declared that all the jackfruit trees will be cut into pieces and along with the orchard and the palace, the whole property will be divided into number of plots, where there will be urbanization and industrialization in future.  And for the time being the family will be leaving to the sound of the jackfruit orchard being cut down to pieces, said Adu. On request from Johar, Adu, their old servant, temporarily stopped the cutting process. The story presents themes of cultural futility —the futility of the aristocracy to maintain its status and the futility of the bourgeoisie to find meaning in its new found materialism. In reflecting the socio-economic forces at work in Bangladesh at the turn of the 21st century, the play reflects forces at work around Bangladesh and in this part of globe as well.

KanthalBagan-Bengali PlayAs a director of the play Ali Jaker says, during the period of transition from feudal economy to market economy, not only the land and the old values, but also the nature, the women and the downtrodden are by and large victimized by the onslaught of market economy. It happens as because there is no difference between the values of the moribund feudalism and the values of the rising forces of market economy, Jaker says.

In the beginning, while there are only two persons on stage and on the palace as well, Adu says to his daughter that his huge accumulated wealth is due to thousands of green and ripe jackfruits of the orchard which according to Adu is nothing but a forest of jackfruit trees. This particular Adu after a couple of days while having the ownership of the property along with the jackfruit orchard by dint of auction, declared that the trees of this orchard will be cut into pieces in no time. This proves the truth of Ali Jaker`s statement on values.

Now let us come to the production pattern. Along with antique furniture, multimedia has been explored very nicely and with extreme caution in making stage craft by Pijush Dastidar. The help of multimedia has been taken to give an idea about the jackfruit orchard in the hinterland. And in front we see the use of antique furniture arranged very efficiently. Light by Nasirul Haq is very good. Make up by Shuvashish Datta – Tanmay and dress planning by Sara Jaker herself are praise worthy. Since Folk songs have been used in this production under the very able guidance of Tahanina Islam we are to appreciate those. But there is very little relevance of those songs and choreography in this particular play. Since this play  is full of melancholy with pinch of ecstasy with the new owner Adu, there is very little scope of dance and music of this kind.

Anyway to talk about acting Ali Jaker as Adu is outstanding. Adu has been made in a different manner to that of Lalmohan of Ajitesh. So we are not going to compare Adu with Lalmohan. But while narrating the auction what Ajitesh did is unforgettable lifetime achievement of a spectator. In this production there is none to be placed just after Ali Jaker. But as per the acting is concerned Sara Jaker as Johara, Jhumu Majumder as Miju the daughter of Adu, Mostafij Shahin as Jonab Ali, Tahanina Islam as Tamanna, the daughter of Johra, Pantha Shahariar as the care taker and Fakrujjaman Chowdhuri as Sundarlal have done well.

- Pachu Ray

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